This is a thought experiment, for fun (well it was fun for me, anyway). First, I need to establish the context of the experiment, so here is a brief, but fascinating, history lesson about Time…
Rail Time or “-ish” Time?
Prior to 1883, people had a different relationship to Time than we do today. You could walk into a Jeweler’s Shop, for example, and ask the time. The Jeweler might have said, “It’s 2:30.” You could then cross the street to the bank and the Banker may have looked at his watch and told you, “It’s 1:45 on the dot.” Then you could go next door, right away, to the Grocer and ask the time. The Grocer may have said, “Just turned 2:00.”
The Jeweler, Banker, and Grocer would all have been correct. Of course, that would seem odd today, but it was normal and not even inconvenient, then.
2:30-ish was good enough for the needs of most people, but after 1883, everything changed.
So what happened that made people come to agreement on what time it really was and why were they so misaligned before 1883?
The Railroad happened.
Prior to the advent of the rail system, towns were not necessarily connected in any way that required synchronization. Time was arbitrary because people in Ohio, for example, did not need to be in sync with people from Pennsylvania. Even towns geographically close to each other adhered to different time zones. Most people and towns set their watch by the sun’s location in the sky. For example, when the sun was at the highest point in the sky during the day, it was “noon”. Depending how good your eyesight was or how well-made your town’s sun-dial was, “noon” could be anywhere between 12:00 and 1:00. A town 400 miles away would have a different “noon” than your town’s noon. It did not really matter because no one was on so tight a schedule that minutes counted so much as hours.
When railroads began connecting towns, however, time differences became a tremendous source of irritation for engineers. If an engineer was to leave Dayton, Ohio at “noon”, how would he know when to leave? The Jeweler would have showed up a half-hour late, the Banker 15 minutes early, and the Grocer might have just made it. Each passenger in each town was using their own approximate measurement of time.
The rails created a unifying effect. Eventually (but with much resistance) people began setting their watches to “rail time”. In 1883, the railroads adopted five standard time zones to replace the multitude of local times. People reluctantly accepted “railroad time”, even though it meant “noon” was not quite when the sun was at its apex in the sky in many locales.
The Fun Part
Okay, that was the context. Now here is the thought experiment:
Let’s look out 30 years and ask, what if ROWE truly is the status quo? If most everyone is producing in a Results-Only Work Environment, how might our concept of Time change (if it changed at all)?
Would we inadvertently return to a relaxed way of life, where “-ish” Time is good enough? Would we return to telling our children to “be home before dark” or “when the street lights come on” instead of giving a firm curfew time?
Time, being somewhat arbitrary and abstract to most of us, has a unique ability to expand and contract. Have you experienced an hour “fly by” when you are engaged in something meaningful or fun? Does the day just “crawl” when you are stuck performing grueling, mindless tasks that bore you? How might your perception of Life transform if your perception of Time transformed?
This is just an experiment. There are no right or wrong answers.
How would you meet your friends to catch a movie? Would it matter if they were a half-hour late? Would you care if you felt like you had “all the Time in the world”? What if the movie started late; would it matter? How might a leisurely meal be, if each one stretched to two-hours of laughter and conversation? What would it be like to never be stuck in rush hour traffic, angry with how much “time” it takes to get home, or to work?
In other words, what if, after we threw our traditional, centuries-old concept of Work out the window, we also threw our traditional, centuries-old concept of Time Management out the window?
How interesting. Think about that, and get back to me about 2:30-ish.